Why study Expressive Arts Therapy at CIIS?

Have the arts ever helped you through an emotional or life crisis? Have you ever used activities such as creative writing, painting, pottery, singing, dancing, or improvisational acting to feel a greater sense of aliveness? Are you looking for a career where you can integrate your passion for the arts with your desire for personal, relational, and systemic healing and social change?

At CIIS, we encourage you to combine academic rigor with personal experience to craft your own identities as Expressive Arts Therapists.

Can you recommend any resources to learn more about Expressive Arts Therapy?


  • Malchiodi, C. A. (Ed.) (2005). Expressive Therapies. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Dr. Cathy Malchiodi is a prominent voice in the field of Expressive Arts Therapies. Her publications have made these concepts and research in our field widely accessible to practitioners and the general public. Her most recent works focus on the healing principles of EXA when working with clients who have experienced trauma. This text offers a very helpful, efficient introduction of the major creative and expressive arts therapy disciplines.
  • Bailey, S. (2021), Careers in Creative Arts Therapy Careers: Succeeding as a Creative Professional. Routledge. This is a collection of essays written by and interviews with registered drama therapists, dance/movement therapists, music therapists, art therapists, poetry therapists, and expressive arts therapists. The book sheds light on the fascinating yet little-known field of the creative arts therapies – psychotherapy approaches which allow clients to use creativity and artistic expression to explore their lives, solve their problems, make meaning, and heal from their traumas. Featuring stories of educators in each of the six fields and at different stages of their career (including CIIS EXA faculty, Danielle Drake, PhD and Phil Weglarz, PhD), it outlines the steps one needs to take in order to find training in one of the creative arts therapies and explores the healing aspects of the arts, where creative arts therapists work, who they work with, and how they use the arts in therapy.   This book illuminates creative arts therapy career possibilities for undergraduate and graduate students studying acting, directing, playwriting, creative writing, visual arts, theatre design, dance, and music. 
  • Afuape, T. (2011). Power, Resistance and Liberation in Therapy with Survivors of Trauma: To have our hearts broken. New York, NY: Routledge. Dr. Taiwo Afuape's work is foundational to the pedagogy of the EXA Program. She has reconceptualized the concepts of power, resistance and liberation as co-creative acts that take place in therapy and in life for both clients and practitioners alike. Through liberation psychology, Dr. Afuape outlines a vision for co-create healing practices that honor the wisdom and agency of all involved in healing processes.
  • Menakem, R. (2017). My Grandmother’s Hands. Las Vegas, NV: Central Recovery Press. This recent publication by Mr. Resmaa Menakem shifts the focus of racism to the body. This ground-breaking text is part of the required reading for the Family Systems course sequence in the EXA program.
  • Hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York, NY: Routledge. A classic in the field of education, Womanist activist/scholar/educator bell hooks' treatise on teaching as an act of rebellion in the name of freedom informs the foundational pedagogies of the Expressive Arts Therapy program. As a community of learners, we are all gathered together to become contributing Scholar/Artist/Practitioners in the wider field of Expressive Arts Therapy.


I want to be an Expressive Arts Therapist, where do I start?

Before entering the world of Expressive Arts Therapy as a graduate student, we recommend that you get involved in the community. Practical experience in human services and local arts are important early steps of the learning experience. Below are examples of how to gain experience:

  • Attend cultural events related to a background other than your own and explore arts modalities other than modalities you have trained in.
    • Attend arts performances, lectures, movies, or cultural events (please practice safety measures during COVID-19 - many events have gone online!)
    • Ask a friend from a spiritual practice other than your own if you may worship with them
    • Take a class that teaches you about cultures other than your own locations of identity
    • Read books (see above for some suggestions)
    • Study forms of art that are unfamiliar to you. If you are a singer, study painting. If you are a ceramicist, study singing. If you are a poet, study improv. The sky is the limit!

Will this Expressive Arts Therapy program lead to licensure?

The professional practice of counseling is a regulated occupation in the state of California. Coursework in the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program at CIIS and each of its five programs is approved by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) to fulfill educational requirements toward the marriage and family therapist license (LMFT).

Students also have the option to take additional coursework to fulfill the educational requirements of the professional clinical counselor license (LPCC). Students seeking the LPCC licensure also take courses for the MFT, enabling them to pursue either license and to work with couples, families, and/or children as an LPCC.

Students seeking licensure in California as an LMFT or LPCC must register with the BBS after graduation and successfully complete additional post-graduate supervised clinical associate hours and written examinations. See the BBS’ Statutes and Regulations PDF for additional information.

I want to be licensed in a state other than CA after I graduate. Will my education at CIIS cover the requirements for other states?

In many cases, our coursework and training is very similar or entirely portable to many states. However, each state has their own specific licensure requirements that include both academic coursework and clinical practicum hours that may differ from CA’s requirements.

In cases where this program does not meet the requirements for another state, additional coursework or practicum hours may be required. While licensure may be possible in another state, it is not guaranteed. Luckily, you will have the full support of the Director of MCP who will help you understand the specific licensing requirements.

Lastly, you should consult the licensing boards of the appropriate state of country for the most up-to-date licensing information outside of California.

Questions? Contact us.

We are here to help! If you have any questions about applying to a program or registering for an Info Session, please reach out to the Admissions Office

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